Archive for August, 2008


Rain Water Harvesting

August 30, 2008

Pre-Script: This article has also been published in Youth Unite.


Sometimes, we do not need to develop wisdom by re-inventing the wheel. For centuries, rain water harvesting has been a dominant activity in our country. Be it for irrigation systems, be it in temples, be it in the backyard of ones own house. This is something that we have always been doing. But, after the concrete jungles have taken over the cities, Rainwater Harvesting has not been in the fore front of demands of any purchaser or builder of home/ apartment in urban landscapes. Do we wake up only after a large scale disaster hits us, like Los Angeles – whose case is explained in the video below?


Rain water harvesting in an urban landscape could be as simple as collecting the water flowing from the terraces out into the road (and causing local street flooding) into an underground tank/ sump or a cachement area which could later used for washing clothes, Cars, cooking, flushing toilets etc. (OR) Letting the rainwater flow into the ground from the terrace through multiple layers of natural filtering like broken bricks etc. which would contribute to the rise of the water tables in the area.


The following two websites have all the resources, case studies, links, community projects and all the necessary information on rainwater harvesting – particularly in India.


The following video is actually an advertisement for the rain water harvesting systems but has a lot of information on practical implementation of rain water harvesting. As they say, some times the advertisements are more informative and useful than the programs/serials in our television.


And if you have watched all the videos till now, do watch this one also. A nice way of putting across the message. Just to end.


Do let know if you know of any interesting implementations of the rain water harvesting methods in your area.



Destination Infinity


Aurangzeb’s War of Succession – Mughal Empire

August 26, 2008


There were times when we would be more interested with the games period right next to the History class and all our attention would be on how many runs we would be scoring. There were days when we used to memorize the history lessons after cursing it a hundred times. Strange, it seems, when history suddenly becomes one of our most intriguing passions. Suddenly, we want to know and learn what happened before us. This is one such piece of history, which I found interesting. This one documents the means used by Aurangzeb to gain the highest position of Indian Empire. The means he used against his own father and brothers to gain power. But now, we have very less time to indulge in our passions. Do read, if you are one of the gifted ones who still have the time and passion at your disposal. Let us go to the year – 1658.


Shah Jahan’s magnificent reign ended in a long anticipated, convulsive political crisis. When the emperor fell ill, pent-up tensions between the mature Timurid princes exploded into a four sided war of succession. The war pitted Dara Shukoh, resident at court as the designated heir, against his three younger brothers: Muhammad Shuja, governor of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa; Aurangzeb, the governor of four Deccan states; and Murad Bakhsh, governor of Gujarat and Malwa. All were sons of Mumtaz Mahal, and therefore full, rather than half brothers. Despite Shah Jahan’s expressed preference for his eldest son, Dara Shukoh, the Timurid appanage system offered no clear precedent for succession.


This was a bloody struggle fought by formidable opponents; Dara, Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad battled each other with that intensity and intimacy reserved for brothers with differing personalities. Each prince shared in the Timurid familial charisma and royal authority which gave all an undisputable claim on the throne. Each brother could draw upon the services of extremely able military and administrative staffs. Each commanded a power base, possessed ample treasure and could muster large, well-equipped armies. Only one contender could claim the throne; all others faced the grave.


In Bengal, Prince Muhammad Shuja immediately crowned himself king at Rajmahal and brought his cavalry, artillery, and river flotilla upriver toward Agra. Near Varanasi, his forces confronted a defending army sent from Delhi under the command of Dara. In mid-February, a well executed early morning surprise attack routed the Bengal troops. Shuja and his surviving men fled down river to Monghyr.


In Gujarat, Murad crowned himself in a public ceremony and prepared to march north. Murad and Aurangzeb had agreed on a joint plan of action. If they defeated their brothers, Aurangzeb would leave to Murad the Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Sind to rule as an independent King and he would rule the remaining territories. In early 1658, Aurangzeb set his army marching north. He joined forces with Murad at the village of Dharmat on the Ghambira river. Here they met Shah Jahan’s army under the command of Jaswant Singh Rathor. In the ensuing battle Aurangzeb’s well handled guns and cavalry outfought the imperial army whose survivors fell back on Delhi in disarray.


At Delhi, Dara rebuilt a 50,000 man army and awaited his brothers at defensive positions on the Chambal river south of Agra. Aurangzeb outflanked him by finding an unguarded fort. The armies met at broad plain at the village of Samugarh on the Yamuna near Agra. On 29th May, in the blazing heat of Indian summer, the climactic battle of the succession took place. Aurangzeb’s superior tactics and better disciplined artillery and cavalry prevailed against the valor of repeated Rajput cavalry charges. Finally, toward the end of the day, Dara dismounted from his war elephant and fled the field on horseback. A full scale rout began.


Aurangzeb occupied Agra city and when negotiations failed, besieged his father in Agra fort. Deprived of access to water from the river, Shah Jahan surrendered on June 8, 1658. The vast treasuries and magazines of Agra fort fell into Aurangzeb’s hands.


Dara stayed only briefly in Agra before moving to Lahore. When Aurangzeb resumed pursuit, tension between him and Murad grew. Despite warnings, Murad entered his brother’s camp for a dinner on 25th June. Here he was disarmed, made captive and quietly sent off to prison along with his son. Aurangzeb enrolled Murad’s leaderless army into his service the next day. Aurangzeb paused in Delhi long enough to crown himself on 21st July in Shalimar gardens with the title of Alamgir or “World-Seizer”. Thereafter he dealt with his brothers from an overwhelmingly strong position.


Shuja, rejecting Aurangzeb’s promises of unthreatened rule in the east, mustered a force of 25,000 cavalry and a flotilla of river boats and marched upriver. In late December, Aurangzeb joined his son Muhammad Sultan for battle against Shuja. Despite the last minute deflection of Jaswant Singh Rother with his Rajput cavalry to Shuja, Aurangzeb’s army greatly outnumbered and outgunned the Bengal army. Defeated and routed, Shuja fled with the remnants of the army.


In the interim, Dara had regained his courage, acquired funds, recruited a 20,000 man army in Gujarat and marched north. But in mid-March, 1659, Aurangzeb’s army over ran Dara’s forces in a bloody three day battle fought in the hills outside Ajmer. A little while later, Dara was arrested in Lahore and brought to Delhi as a prisoner and killed by Aurangzeb.


There followed a year and a half long, grim, water-borne campaign in pursuit of Prince Shuja by an imperial army under Mir Jumla. Shuja fought, retreated east until finally, at Tanda his army was decisively beaten and broken. In early May 1660, Shuja left Decca by boat with his family and a few faithful troops to take refuge with the raiding king of Arakan. Here, suspected of a plot against the king, he met his death. Murad Bakhsh, who was imprisoned earlier was also charged of murder and killed by Aurangzeb.


The succession crisis reaffirmed the unity of the empire and the authority of the victorious Timurid monarch. Partition of the empire into two or more appanages did not take place. Division of the empire was a bargaining point, nothing more. The principal’s knew that whoever acquired the imperial capital and throne would not rest until the partitioned territories – be they in the east or west or south – were recovered.



Destination Infinity

 You could find similar articles in the Non Fiction section of this blog.

PS: It was not only Aurangzeb, who had to fight for the throne – many other princes also did, in the Mughal Dynasty.


List of 200 Hobbies

August 23, 2008

This is sort of an update to my earlier post 

You can find a list of around 200 Hobbies Here

And yes, I have learnt how to link. Thanks to Daily Blog Tips

 Destination Infinity

PS: 🙂


The Freedom that we Inherit

August 20, 2008

PS: (Pre-Script) – I had posted this a couple of days back in Youth Unite also.

Neeraj and Shruti were recently married. Both were employed with big IT Companies. Their offices were in a huge IT park on the outskirts of a major city in India. They had to commute for hours to reach their office and come back – daily. To add to the distance, there was also a huge traffic in the peak hours which made things worse. Neeraj had been observing some of his colleagues moving into the “Gated Communities” of Apartments which were coming up around his IT park. It had all the amenities required for a world class community. They were even assuring uninterrupted power. It was a self sustained, separate world in itself. Neeraj was contemplating whether they should also buy one of the apartments and move into them. But it was Shruti who spoke first about this to Neeraj.


“Neeraj, why don’t we move into one of the gated community apartments near our office? They have all the facilities, it seems. You know how much time it takes everyday commuting to the office and back”


“Yeah, I was also thinking about that for some time. But what would I tell my father?  He took a lot of pains to construct this house in the middle of the city, and I know what this house means to my father. He is emotionally attached to this house. I still remember those days when we didn’t have so much money, how much efforts my father put into buying the plot and constructing the house. He sacrificed a lot, Shruti. In fact all of us did to build his dream house. He will never leave this house”


“All that is fine Neeraj, but times have changed now and people have their priorities. I am not talking about the comforts there Neeraj, but I am talking about the strain we undergo daily just for commuting”


“Let all of us move, then. We will leave this house on rent”


“I will be more than glad to do that. But will your father accept?”


“I don’t think he will”


“Neeraj, try to understand. It’s not like we are fighting with them and leaving them for ever. We are just looking for a reasonable solution”


“In fact, I was also thinking about talking about this to you, Shruti. Maybe we could come here every weekend and we will not ask for any money from them for purchasing the flat. Well manage the installments ourselves”


“Money is not an issue Neeraj. But I was concerned if they get ill or something, who would take care of them?”


“We are just going to be two hours away Shruti. And we could also appoint a nurse to take care of them, if required. I was thinking, they may become lonely”


“They could always come and stay with us, Neeraj. Right now we may not be able to afford a two bedroom apartment, but we will in a few years. It is only until then. Talk to your father, Neeraj”


Neeraj had already decided to talk to his father on this. He was afraid what Shruti would say. But since she also had similar opinions, he decided that it would be today. He was thinking about all the questions his father might ask and all the options that were available with them at this point. He hadn’t planned how to start the conversation with his father. The words automatically came from his mouth.


“Dad, me and Shruti have decided to buy one of the apartments coming up near our IT park. You know how much time we spend every day traveling. And Of course, we wish that you sell this house and come along with us”  


His father was not the kind of person who lets his emotions overcome his intellect. But this time, his mind was filled with emotions. ‘They have already decided to buy?’, ‘Ill have to sell this house?’, ‘He wishes that we could go along with him?’


His father wanted to ask a hundred questions but one thought prevented him from speaking anything. His memories from thirty years before came haunting at him. He was able to remember the exact conversation he had with his father (Neeraj’s grand father) when he put forward a similar demand. He, like his son, was also newly married then. He told Neeraj, the same thing that his father had told him thirty years earlier.


“It’s your wish son. If you have already decided, there is nothing much I can do about it. I only wish that you develop enough courage to face your son when he says the same thing to you after thirty years”



Destination Infinity


PS (Post Script): “Life is a circle. What goes up in the wheel of life, has to come down”





Sir Winston Churchill on Hobbies

August 15, 2008

We know Sir Winston Churchill as a statesman. He commanded the British army at a time when it seemed impossible to stop the Nazis under Hitler during the second world war. The following speech during the air-raiding of the Nazis on London and elsewhere in England is a very famous one. This was broadcasted live to the nation on the radio. The link for the same is given below.


But many of us do not know the other side of Winston Churchill. He was not only a statesman and a parliamentarian but he was also a soldier, journalist, writer, essayist, historian, orator and a very ardent painter. It seems he would get into his study room and paint for hours together without letting anyone disturb him, during the course of the war. By the way, he started painting after the age of 40!


The below article was written by Sir Winston Churchill on the topic of hobbies.


“Broadly speaking, human beings may be divided into three classes: those who are toiled to death, those who are worried to death and those who are bored to death.


To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real. It is no use starting late in life to say: “I will take an interest in this or that.” Such an attempt only aggravates the strain of mental effort.


The need of an alternative outlook, of a change of atmosphere, of a diversion of effort, is essential for anyone and everyone.


The most common form of diversion is reading. In that vast and varied field millions find their mental comfort. Nothing makes a man more reverent than a library. “A few books”, which was Lord Morley’s definition of anything under five thousand, may give a sense of comfort and even of complacency. But a day in a library, even of modest dimensions, quickly dispels these illusory sensations. As you browse about, talking down book after book from the shelves and contemplating the vast, infinitely varied store of knowledge and wisdom which the human race has accumulated and preserved, pride, even in its most innocent forms, is chased from the heart by feelings of awe not untinged with sadness. As one surveys the mighty array of sages, saints, historians, scientists, poets and philosophers, whose treasures one will never be able to admire, still less enjoy, the brief tenure of our existence here dominates mind and spirit…. 


“What shall I do with all my books?” was the question; and the answer, “Read them,” sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas.


Since change is an essential element in diversion of all kinds, it is naturally more restful and refreshing to read in a different language from that in which one’s ordinary daily work is done….


But reading and book-love in all their forms suffer from one serious defect; they are too nearly akin to the ordinary daily round of the brain-worker to give that element of change and contrast essential to real relief. To restore psychic equilibrium we should call into use those parts of the mind which direct both eye and hand.


Many men have found great advantage in practicing a handicraft for pleasure. Joinery, chemistry, book-binding, even brick-laying, if one were interested in them and skilful at them, would give a real relief to the overtired brain. But best of all and easiest to procure are sketching and painting in all their forms. I consider myself very lucky that I have been able to develop this new taste and pastime….


Painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites to no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes of Times or the surly advance of Decrepitude. Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day”.



Destination Infinity

You can find similar articles in the Concepts and Ideas section of this blog. 

PS: I am happy to note that atleast one Blogger has a good offline hobby. You can read about the Food Project, which is basically indulging in growing fruits and vegetables in an urban atmosphere (Where space is difficult to allot for gardening), in the following links.  and the follow up post on it –


If you have come across any different Offline hobbies like the above, or if you indulge in any, do contribute your input in the comments section. It could be useful for others like me!


How Desperately Difficult it is to be Honest

August 11, 2008

This post was inspired from the quote : “How Desperately Difficult it is to be Honest with oneself. It is much easier to be honest with others”. It has been taken quite literally. It is about the questions that a person would want to ask if he meets himself, who is 10 years older. This is only possible if a Time machine were invented, but it is possible in my blog too 🙂 . I have written this one in Youth Unite, where I am a Co-author. You can find the post in the below link.

Destination Infinity


Bilingual Dilemmas

August 4, 2008

Actually, I can speak four languages – Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and English (Yes, I count this as a separate language that I know!). But English is only for Business. Since, I can speak English well, Am I an Englishman? A look in the mirror confirms otherwise. Am I then Hindi? I guess not – for I can speak only broken Hindi.


We are then left with two more – Tamil and Telugu. Both are dominant languages of South India. As long I was in Chennai, there was no problem. I was a Tamilian outside my house and Telugu inside. But when I came to Bangalore, I had to answer one tough question – ‘Are you Tamil?’ It would have been easier to answer this – ‘Are you from Chennai?’ But no, you are asked the other question always. Sometimes, I have blinked for as long as 20 seconds to answer that question.


Forget others; my real problem comes when my heart asks my mind – ‘Are you Telugu or Tamil?’


Though my mother tongue is Telugu and we speak Telugu at home, I was born and brought up in Chennai in Tamil Nadu. My second language in school was Tamil and it was one of my favorite subjects. Outside my house, I always used to speak in Tamil.


Many of my classmates were Telugu by birth, but no one bothered to enquire. In fact, one of my bench mates for a long time in college was Telugu and had studied Telugu as a second language – in Chennai. But we always spoke to each other in Tamil.


Tamil is a very rich and an absorbing language. Living in Chennai for three generations means you are almost Tamil. Almost.  


When I came to Bangalore, my PG (Paying Guest accommodation) house owner introduced me to my future room mates and said that they were also Tamil. I insisted that I was Telugu. He then spoke to me in Telugu for five minutes. That was all he needed to convince himself that I was Tamil indeed, as he had earlier thought and spoke to me in Tamil henceforth.


Watching cricket matches could be boring sometimes. But with a big cheering crowd in my PG and 20 overs limited fast paced matches, watching the IPL was fun. One of my PG room mate was born and brought up in Madhya Pradesh (Chattisgarh, to be precise). His mother tongue was Tamil. This guy was supporting Chennai Super Kings (CSK). I decided that if this Madhya Pradesh (Now Chattisgarh) born guy could support his ancestral town; I better support Hyderabad Deccan Chargers. Or maybe even the Bangalore Royal Challengers, as I am currently living in Bangalore. But to my (and my fellow and ancestral city mates) dismay, neither of the teams blasted. The Madhya Pradesh (Chattisgarh?) supported CSK went right upto the finals! Of course, I decided to support CSK in the finals and you saw what happened! Call it luck – Bad Luck.


When I went to Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram?) to my colleague’s house, his mother asked me the same question – ‘Are you Tamil?’ Looking at the confusion in my face, my colleague volunteered – “He is Telugu”. To which, his mother replied – ‘But he looks like a Pandi…’. I later came to know that Pandi is a loose reference to Pandiya Nadu and that Malayalee’s use that word to refer to Tamil people in general, much like how North Indians use ‘Madrasi’ to refer to South Indians in general!


The icing in the cake came when I over heard a couple of Telugu guys speaking about me – “Some new Tamil guy has joined in our PG it seems….”


So, I use this medium of Blogging to tell everyone in Blogsville – “Naan Thamizhan ille nu yenga sonnen?…..  Thamizhana irrundirunda nalla irrukkum nu than solleren”


Dasavatharam Style….


Destination Infinity


PS: I am not going to translate the last sentence to any other language. If you can understand it, it was meant only for you. J